Post-Match Analysis: Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal Australian Open Final
by Ben Pronin | January 30th, 2012

Before I get too bogged down, I have to congratulate Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal for an unbelievable display of heart during one of the greatest matches and major finals of all time. Even nearing the six hour mark, the two played breathtaking tennis from start to finish, in fact they probably played even better at the end.

And while all those records are great, the Nadal-Djokovic match-up is becoming supremely interesting from a tactical and strategic standpoint. From the very beginning, you could tell the two were playing a chess match. Nadal came out with a new strategy to disrupt the wrecking machine that Djokovic has become and it paid dividends throughout the first set and particularly towards the end of the match, as well. One of the most significant things Nadal came out with was the body serve. First of all, I never understood why more players don’t do this. It’s unbelievably effective because it is almost always going to be difficult to return and since no one ever hits it, it’s always going to come as a surprise. When you consider that Djokovic is the best returner in the game (and possibly of all time) and you see how he struggled to get that serve back in play, I really hope more players employ this tactic in the future. Not just against Djokovic but in general.

Another shot Nadal employed was the down-the-line backhand. While not as much of a killer shot the way Djokovic’s is, this shot proved to be extremely useful for Nadal when he needed to open the court and blast a forehand winner. I felt that Nadal changed directions on both strokes extremely well throughout the match and that was something we never really saw him do well last year. The ability to change directions easily is a huge part of Djokovic’s success throughout his career and while Nadal doesn’t do it quite as well, he showed great improvement last night. This was especially evident in the fourth set when Nadal was facing triple break point. It can be said that Djokovic wasted some ample opportunities to win the fourth set, but I don’t consider this one of them. Nadal simply played five unbelievable points, one of which included a backhand down-the-line winner.

Despite executing some new tactics to great effect, Nadal still lost the match. One of the reasons for this is because of his inability to execute his game plan during the second and third sets. The first and fourth sets showed a different dynamic in the match up. But the middle two sets were extremely familiar. Nadal played too defensively and Djokovic plowed right through him. Of course this had a lot to do with Djokovic, as well. Nadal was hitting his forehand unbelievably well throughout the match and it seemed like Djokovic played into it too often in the first set. By the middle of the fourth, Nadal didn’t even look like he had a forehand. Djokovic kept him pinned to the backhand corner and it paid off. It was also interesting to note how much Nadal was slicing. I think he may have taken this play from Andy Murray and Roger Federer who have great success against Djokovic with the slice, but Nadal’s slice sits up too much and I was surprised that he resorted to it so often. Especially because he was hitting his backhand extremely well, better than he has since probably the 2010 US Open.

After over four and a half hours of play when the two were entering the fifth set, it seemed like they were at a stale mate. Neither player brought anything new into the fifth set, as there was nothing new to bring. It became a battle of the heart and fitness, and what a fantastic battle it was. Djokovic looked out of gas for the first half of the set until Nadal blinked serving 4-2 30-15 by missing an easy backhand pass. Djokovic got his 16th wind and eventually grinded Nadal down before closing it out.

In his post match presser, Nadal said, “ I didn’t have mental problems today against him.  I had in 2011 all these mental problems.  Today I didn’t have.  I compete with normal conditions against him, no?”

Maybe not to the extent of last year, but I don’t fully agree with Nadal on this one. Against anyone else, he makes that backhand. Against anyone else, he doesn’t fall to his knees after winning the fourth set. This one meant a lot to Nadal and he showed it. But somehow Djokovic thwarted him again. And while Nadal certainly has to be proud of how he fought, there is still the issue that Djokovic could have won the match sooner. It seemed like Nadal was well on his way to the title in that fifth set but I think Nadal still played hopeful tennis, as in, he was hoping to win rather than believing he could actually do it.

I don’t expect Nadal to go away, but one has to wonder if he’ll ever even get to a match point against the Serb again.

One final thought, Nadal has reached four straight major finals, regardless of the last three losses, this is an unbelievable accomplishment. And there’s good reason to believe he’ll be in his fifth final in a few months. As for Djokovic, well, it looks like he’s as unbeatable as ever, if not more so.

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143 Comments for Post-Match Analysis: Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal Australian Open Final

johhnny Says:

very nice analysis of the match. i also feel novak should’ve finished the match in 4. great effort by both. i just hope they don’t kill each other due to slow courts that need to be sped up a little bit. you could see it was very hard to hit a winner.

Ajet Says:

My analysis:

Women tennis is uncompeteitve and super-pathetic compared to men’s tennis. Thus, they must be forced to play best of 5 matches at least in final! They don’t deserve even half of the money that men deserve or are getting!

please make the ladies final mandatory best of 5, or it is just too much injustice to see men giving us one after another after another epic matches in slams, while all women have to offer is joke of lopsided matches with pathetic one-dimensionall ball-bashing tennis.

RibaRiva Says:

I agree that Nadal overused the backhand slice and played much too defensively in the second and third sets. However I don’t think that the body shot serve worked that well for him. Serving in the deuce court Nadal was tremendously effective serving a kick serve into the T that veered away from Djokovic. He won nearly all those serves. His problem was serving into the ad court. Djokovic anticipated the serves to the body and often ran around them to take it with his forehand. The kick serve to the ad court that was so effective against Federer for so many years just doesn’t work against Djokovic.

mat4 Says:


Nadal won the semi of the Olympics serving in Novak’s body in the third set. It is not a new strategy for him.

Brando Says:

Excellent analysis Ben. I looked at the stats of the match and the biggest one that sticks out, and makes the difference, is the 2nd serve points won.

Rafa won 47% in comparison to nole’s 63%. Tells the story i feel.

In his last 7 matches against nole, rafa has not won 50% 2nd serves even ONCE. Credit nole for this- he is the best returner, possibly of all time.

The biggest thing about nole’s 2nd serve returns are that he usually lands them deep, right back at rafa, almost at his feet. Giving him next to no time to react.

I think what rafa should do his employ the body serve on these points, or the serve down the middle in order that he does not put himself in such a position.

All in all though, i feel rafa did very well and he will face nole with alot more positivity than most seem to think here the next time they meet.

True he did not win- but at least he finally put himself in the position to do so against nole. THAT i feel is the biggest thing for rafa after 4 no contests on the bounce.

Tennislover Says:


“One of the most significant things Nadal came out with was the body serve.”

I don’t think there was anything new or significant about it. I am almost certain that Nadal served a significantly greater proportion of body serves in the USO 2011 final although the success rate i.e. the percentage of points won on such serves could be roughly similar in both matches. As grendel mentioned on the other thread, Nadal’s serve was impressive and I agreed. His first serves were significantly quicker than those in the USO 2011 final although the seconds were probably similar in speed. Some of those first body serves had more of a visual impact because Djoko got jammed badly because of the faster serve speed. You could say that Raf surprised him on some key moments with the wide serve into the deuce court. It was a combination of generally better Raf first serves and slightly inconsistent ROS from Djok that resulted in those “poorer” receiving points won and BPs converted numbers for Djok.

I also think the body serve is used by more players and more frequently than you seem to imagine.

Raf’s dtl bh appears to have regained some of its pop compared to last year but it is still not at the 2010 level. Raf’s slice, if you can call it one, can not be compared with Murray’s and certainly not with Fed’s. Raf’s slice is very reliable but strictly defensive and players with a good bh can deal with it very easily.

“Against anyone else, he makes that backhand.”

I tend to agree there. There were other instances too. It is almost like Fed missing sitters quite inexplicably against Raf.

“…there is still the issue that Djokovic could have won the match sooner.”

It probably shows that Djok still respects Raf and his game a lot despite winning so many times recently. Maybe it was stiffness at the start of the match. I certainly expected Djok to close it out after being up 5-3 in the 4th set breaker.

Raf played too safe on certain points, waiting hopefully for Djoko errors through tired shots, in the 5th even when he got short balls instead of being aggressive to seize control. That works like a charm against most other players but Djok is not one of them.

“I don’t expect Nadal to go away, but one has to wonder if he’ll ever even get to a match point against the Serb again.”

I won’t be so pessimistic. I am sure most of us have seen enough tennis to know that things can change and, sometimes, pretty quickly. It is indeed difficult to visualize a fresh and fit Djok being beaten by Raf at the moment. He seems to have all the answers as of now. However, Raf will still fancy his chances especially if they meet at MC and RG provided he is in top physical shape. Raf is very strong on grass too. If he serves well, he will have his chances on grass imo.

I am not a fan of either player but I agree with your sentiments about what these two have achieved in the recent past. Their sheer consistency is incredible and, it appears, it is set to continue unless Murray intervenes. Djok’s ambitions for the year do not sound that unrealistic at the moment. His confidence level must be sky-high now. I wonder how demoralized the rest of the field is.

NachoF Says:

I hate the fact that people are referring to this match as the most epic grand slam final ever. When it clearly just took a long time because both guys take way too much time between serves and the referee didnt do a thing to stop it…. also I dont think they played particularly great.

Tennislover Says:

Brando – Actually a huge majority of Raf’s second serves tend to be body serves. He almost never serves down the T into the ad court especially against top players as he tends to avoid their fh. In any case his excellent wide serve into the ad court works for him more often than not. He does go down the T on the deuce side fairly often as that is to the returner’s bh side.

Tennislover Says:

NachoF – I agree that we tend to get carried away due to the apparent length of the match. These two, in particular, just waste a lot of time on the court and, therefore, the duration gets exaggerated. Another example was their Madrid sf. This is getting increasingly ridiculous and the authorities have to do something about it. Either revise the time limit upwards or enforce it effectively. The umpires simply don’t have the courage to penalize these big stars. I mean who will dare dock a point especially in a final? The moment they start docking points, this crazy trend will start to reverse although I am sure a lot of tantrums will be thrown initially.

Having said that, I think it was a great final in many ways. If nothing else, you can not but admire the sheer effort that both the players put in.

GAT810 Says:

One of the best analyses of the epic final I’ve read so far. I’ve not read anything from Ben Pronin before, but will be looking out for columns from him in the future. He clearly knows the game; may even have been a pretty accomplished player himself, given his insights and how he writes about the match. What he suggested about Novak being in Rafa’s head and how much a victory over Novak would have meant to Rafa (as opposed to a victory over anyone else, even Fed), is so true. I kept watching the match and thinking “Nadal psychologically needs this win way more than Djokovic does.” I hope Nadal is able to rebound from this (and the other 6 losses on the bounce against Novak). Tennis is way better with Nadal near the top of the sport. But what this has demonstrated to me is something I would never have imagined would describe Rafa: fragility. The fact that Novak was able to get inside Nadal’s skull after taking 6 in a row off Nadal is interesting. Despite the number of times Fed has lost to Rafa, I never get the sense that Fed doesn’t believe he can beat Nadal. I get the sense from Rafa that he’s now doubting he can beat Djokovic. Erasing that thought is probably going to be Rafa’s biggest challange going forward.

skeezerweezer Says:

I recorded it and didn’t even watch the first 2 sets. Zipped through the in between points BS, and with that watched the remainder. Our local sports talk radio said the average attention span of a sports fan is about 2-3 hours at best, and said tennis has to change the length of the match or will lose the audience. I know I couldn’t sit for 6 hours and watch anything, but that is just me. Do we really need to have 6 hours to determine who is the better player that day?

grendel Says:


I’m not all that acquainted with Nadal’s game, but I too was struck by how effective those body serves were, even if there weren’t that many. As you say, perhaps the faster pace than expected accounted for Djokovic getting all tied up. He had a nice swerve on the serve, too. The wide serves to the right court seemed to fulfil their function of opening up the court for the server, the returner being stranded. I don’t quite follow why the same effect can’t be had from wide serves to the left court.

Nadal achieved some surprise by unleashing one or two dtl b.hands at the start of the rally – usually, he is pretty cagy, and waits for what he deems to be the ideal ball. I don’t quite agree with you about the 5th. I thought Nadal was very aggressive until that match turning bh miss. That’s because by this time, the adrenalin was flowing. If you take a player like Tsonga or del Potro, they play aggressively as a matter of course. Nadal seems unable to do that against Djokovic until he is, as it were, fully charged up on an emotional level. Cool, calculated aggression just isn’t his style. But maybe that’s what he’ll need if he wants to reverse things with Djokovic.

Brando – “Rafa won 47% [2nd serves]in comparison to nole’s 63%. Tells the story i feel.” Not entirely. Nadal’s second serves were quite often painfully slow.

vox777 Says:

This is what one of poster on Eurosport wrote which I tend to concur with, and I would like to hear your thoughts:
You­ both made it too simple about the GOAT thing.

Devic,­ the GS number and the overall number of titles do count­ towards establishing the greatness of a tennis player,­ but Teodora, tennis in this respect is not comparable­ to running which is also an individual sport, but your­ performance does not depend directly on the­ performance of your opponents (unless someone pushes­ you while you run), and basically, that’s true, the­ chronometer says pretty much everything.

There are­ many figures and factors that count towards­ establishing who’s the GOAT in tennis. It’s not­ just the number of titles. Rafa and Novak both won­ their maiden slams at a younger age than that of­ Roger’s when he won his first Wimbledon. That­ should say something about the former two players, and­ both managed to achieve those feats during the rule of­ the latter. Unlucky choices in the Novak team probably­ delayed him and after full three years he continued­ where he left off, just at the time when Nadal was on­ the way to replacing RF and dominate the game.

Also,­ may all the fans of Hewitt and Roddick forgive me, but­ their careers show they from the very beginning­ didn’t have the quality that was required to­ dethrone Roger in his prime, so the road was pretty­ much open in the first couple of years for RF. Now­ there are two and a half players (seems Murray will­ make that three as of this year) who will dominate the­ game (with Roger admittedly losing his pace, even­ though he’s still a player to be feared of). This­ competition could bring the game-play to unimaginable­ levels, and now the other post makes more sense. Hope­ this gets published.

vox777 Says:

And about the final, I tend to think that Nole was nervous from the start, worried about his fitness level, so he pulled a trigger a bit early in some occasions or thought about it, which made him make more UE than he usually does. In fifth Nole tried to preserve his energy and move Nadal as much as he could from one corner to another in order to make him drop shots due to fatigue, which he did wonderfully (it sounds simple, hit one corner and then the other, but that is Nadal we are talking about and after hard SF and 5 and a half hours in the final it is unbelievable).
Just heard Mats Willander (who doubted the most in Nole) saying on Serbian TV, that he doesn’t see anyone who can beat Djokovic, that he can not think of a player in history which game would trouble Nole, and that he himself as young player wouldn’t be able to take a game of him per set.. Only mentioned Federer as possibility with slice serve and fast game, which is true…
He also said that Nole is his own biggest enemy which is also true… He could have beaten both Rafa and Murray in 4 if he played just a bit better on crucial points…
Rafa very aggressive but only 4% shots from him from inside of court, Nole 32%

El Flaco Says:

Here is the breakdown of serve direction and points won by Nadal on 1st serve.

AO 12
wide body middle –middle body wide
10—12—-17 – - –16—-12—-13

USO 11
wide body middle –middle body wide
5—-15—-5 – - —-5—–7—-13

Wimb 11
wide body middle –middle body wide
4—–2—-17 – - —12—-0—-8

USO 10
wide body middle –middle body wide
10—-10—-6 – - —8—–7—-14

sheila Says:

on tennis channel, martina navritalova said the court played slow, almost like a clay court, which i would think, would have given nadal the huge advantage. yes nadal stayed close w/djokovic, but he did lose. federer stayed close w/nadal in some of their matches & he still lost. what amazes me, to be honest, is how more players arent beating nadal on hardcourts, not clay, but hardcourts. delpotro, berdych, soderling, tsonga, all these guys have huge groundstrokes & serves & dont beat nadal. the difference w/djokovic & these guys, he grew a pair of tennis balls & began 2believe. even murray, especially after the semis, w/that aggressive play, should @ least be threatening nadal on hardcourt & grass. imho, federers 1 handed bh just doesnt match up well against nadals topspin fh + federer is about the same height as nadal so the topspin really bounces up on him. these other guys have huge games, huge serves & are taller than nadal. well if these other tennis players were watching this match they should take something from djokovic’s win. mentally & physically they cant keep up. berdych was bombing some shots @ nadal in the qtrs, but he doesnt believe he can beat nadal. frankly, i hope 2012 brings more guys into the mix. federer was dominate for a long time, nadal has been dominate, what seems like 4ever & hes only 25 & now its djokovics time. hope some other players get into the mix. also i totally agree with ajet, womens tennis sucks. they really need to let women play a best of 5 in the major finals @ least. why shouldnt they be able to handle that. they train for it dont they. they should be as capable as the men to play a best of 5 in the final of a major. i also think this match was so long because these guys take 30 seconds btwn points, if not longer. nadal is so slow btwn points, delpotro is worse.

El Flaco Says:

From watching the match and also comparing statistics from previous slam finals against Djokovic, Nadal mixed up his serve direction better than any previous match. Only the USO 2010 can compare. He didn’t use the middle serve on both the deuce and ad side in the USO 2011 final enough. At Wimb 2011 he didn’t use the body serve enough on both the deuce and ad side. The key isn’t any single serve. It’s using all of them to keep Djokovic off balance.

Tennislover Says:

grendel – I just compared some of Raf’s stats from the USO 2011 final to the AO 2012 final. At the USO, around 49% of Raf’s total serves were body serves( 40% of first plus 69% of second serves). At AO, it was around 39%(30% plus 58%). As you can see the difference in terms of percentage is quite significant and actually easily negates Ben’s contention especially if you consider that the percentage of points won on such serves was, more or less, similar. However, Raf’s average first serves were quicker by 12 kmph on Sunday. Hence the visual impact I talked about. Raf won 66% first serve points and 47% second points(52% and 42% at USO). Djok won 51% receiving points at USO but “only” 41% yesterday. That 66% figure is a positive improvement that Raf can take away from this match. I understand stats shouldn’t be read in isolation but I guess one can draw some reasonably meaningful conclusions if one has watched both the matches.

We don’t necessarily disagree about Raf’s play in the 5th set. I talked only of certain moments and, maybe, they were after that bh miss. I am absolutely sure there were points where Raf was just getting the ball back in play sensing that Djok was running on fumes. He just wanted to prolong those rallies just to exhaust him even more. He even started taking less time between points to prevent Djok from catching his breath properly. He simply didn’t take any initiative on those points even when he had a chance to do so.

Regarding the “tougher” wide serve into the ad court(into the deuce court for lefty servers), I guess the obvious explanation is that it is not their natural side. Compare a cc fh to an off fh. It is much easier to get the acute angles from your natural side and, therefore, to get the returner out of position. The one-two punch becomes a formality then.

Talking of the wide serve into the ad court, I always measure Fed’s serving form from his ability to consistently hit that serve. Sometimes, he is just awesome. That serve is the first thing that leaves him when he is weary or has any back issues. Murray hits it well too. Djok can get some really great angles when he gets it right. He used to do it quite effortlessly and pretty frequently too in his early days if my memory serves me well.

Krishna Says:

Great analysis Ben.. However, I agree with some of the other posters here..this match had no business going 5 really should have been over in 4..Djokovic blew multiple that 0-40 triple BP game at 4-3.. and in the 4th set TB where he was up 5-3..

I think more importantly..due to Djokovic’s long 4 hour 50 minute match with Murray two nights ago..he came out a bit stiff, and made a lot of uncharacteristic errors in the 1st set..had he played at his usual level in the 1st set..this match would have been over in straight sets..

Paul Says:

I am not going to speak to the issue of how this
match was won or lost. What I do intend to speak
to is the fact the EVERYONE ignores how far below
his game Novak was with Murray and Nadal.
Anyone watching him in 2011 must notice this if
he is being honest. I’ll give you a perfect
example. Point after point when Novak was pulled
way off court with one of Nadal’s shots, he
replied by hitting a slice (squash type) shot to
get back into the point. He never used this shot
before! Look at his wins in 2011.That is one of
the things for which he was so applauded previously. His opponent would then put away his current squash shot.
He would take the
most difficult shots which drove him way off the
court, and return them with a very powerful
(usually cross court) return (which was usually a
outright winner) He didn’t do this once in the
Murray or Nadal match. His game has lost a lot. This author and everyone else is ignoring
this fact.

Dan Martin Says:

Great write up – I too think Nadal in some ways threw the kitchen sink at Nole. Played kind of like Courier at times covering 80% of the court with his forehand. Roddick caught Federer off guard at the 2004 Wimbledon and won the 1st set and had great chances to win the 3rd set. The surprise tactics work only once. I think Nole is a hard nut for Rafa to crack. My question is if Lendl instills the same strategy vs. Rafa the next time Murray and Rafa link up. Rafa fought like a mad man out there. Hats off to one of the best fights I have seen on court even if I thought the first 3 1/2 sets were below their US Open rallies. The last 1 1/2 sets were mental warfare on a tennis court.

adam Says:

Paul- i agree there. I really didnt think it was the same level of tennis djokovic played in 2011. more errors, not coming with the same shots on the move etc. A lot of credit is due to nadal, but I really just dont think djokovic brought the same level.
Also as far as it being the best GS final. one of them sure. one of the most physical, and battle of wills definitely. but lets not kid ourselves theres been equal or better GS finals. I even think nadal and djokovic’s us open final was a much higher level and fun to watch.
I think the most significant thing about the match is how hardly it was fought and how much effort was put out there. It was a great motivator and inspiration for young aspiring tennis players out there. They are both truely role models. They are really setting the bar high for the rest of the world, and everyone including the pros I think noticed just how tough and how hard these guys work. Its not just talent.
Great analysis Ben btw. I like what you noticed tactically about nadal.

Michael Says:

Good analysis Ben. But what I think cost Nadal was that he played too timid in the 2nd and 3rd sets. If one was watching the 3rd set, it looked as the match was almost over then when Nadal didn’t even bother to run down balls which he normally would have. He looked sluggish. Agreed, Novak played splendidly those two sets, but he was also helped by Nadal’s defeatist mindset. Suddenly in the middle of fourth set it appeared Nadal came to life yet again, but one should not fail to mention that he was also helped by Novak’s tepid display. A player like Nadal who gave sleepless nights to a genius like Federer is still struggling to grapple with the ferocity of Novak ? It is this uncertainity which makes Tennis more interesting and we have to thank Novak for it just because things would have become too monotonous and boring if Federer or Nadal keep on winning majors at will. Finally we have a player who can checkmate them in their own game and Tennis has won.

andrea Says:

we only caught the espn replay last night which was primarily mid way thru the fourth set and all of the fifth. some of those rallies really were out of this world.

i was very surprised that nadal fell to his knees after winning the fourth set – who does that? – and it really was telling of the situation and his emotions.

i was also surprised that he gave up the break in the 5th right away. any other player (especially federer it seems..sigh) he breaks midway thru the set and the set is done.

all in all, feels like he still has a hurdle to overcome. and until he can win a final again against novak, it’ll still eat away at him.

i felt so sorry for those guys standing during the award ceremony. you could almost feel the lactic acid burning thru their legs…they looked like grimacing zombies.

Angel Says:

I’m sorry but I’m realistic and I don’t think this final wasn’t even slightly good for Rafa. This match should’ve been over in straight sets if Novak wouldn’t have played 5 hour match with Murray and only had one day off. Rafa let go a golden opportunity to get the monkey off his back and now it’s just gonna be harder and harder for him to beat Novak. This is the way how I really see it, I might be wrong but it is unlikely.

Michael Says:

These unbelievable guys toiled for over six hours on court for the title and it is a parody that Azarenka and Sharapova will be getting the same amount of prize money as these guys. They played under an hour to finish the final. This is just ridiculous. Those in favour of this “equality” speak of gender discrimination. But in no other physical sport except Tennis, it is like this where you accord the same amount of importance to male and female. Does it not dawn upon the propgandist of equality that it is really gender discrimination when you make the male toil hard for five sets and the female just three sets to earn the same amount of prize money. Ofcourse the weaker sex theory will be brought to good effect. But is not Nature’s law built on “Survival of the fittest” ??

JACK Says:

I THINK Rafa is getting there and will eventually consistantly beat Djokovic again

Gerry Says:

It seems that Djokovic is hurt more by lack of play than too much play. Remember at last year’s French Open, he ended up with 3 days rest because Fognini, the Italian player, pulled out from the quarterfinals, which led to Djokovic playing Federer next in the semis. Of course, he came out flat and playing stodgily, as we saw how he lost to the Fed.

Nims Says:

Will it not make sense for Rafa to forego the American HC swing and start again with MC. Novak most likely would not be playing in MC, so he can bag a title and get some match play and also some confidence.

Michael Says:

Novak was mostly at the receiving end for most of the bad line calls and yet Nadal couldn’t take advantage of it ??? He made some excellent return of serves which landed right on the line and yet were called out. But he shrug off those disappointment and yet conquered his opponent. That speaks volumes about this man’s tenacity.

Aravind Says:

I am one of those who see the cup as half empty for Nadal. Let us go over the circumstances once again
1. Djokovic had a gruelling 5 hour SF against Murray
2. Nadal had a full day additional rest while not playing as difficult a SF

Yet, Djokovic had set point in the first set(how easily that gets missed). This could have been a regulation 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory for Djokovic. He served at 50% in the first set. He played very average for most of the first set. I got the sense that he was trying to conserve energy early on since he was not sure how his body will react to a five setter. He played a lot of low percentage shots trying to shorten the rallies and lost most of them. Yet Nadal could only win the first set 7-5. In the second and third, Djokovic raised his game and Nadal did not have a chance. In the fourth in the face of overwhelming odds, he came back from 0-40 to win the game. But do not forget at tiebreak Djokovic made a FH UE at 5-3(which missed marginally) and would’ve given him 3 match points. He made three consecutive errors to hand the set to Nadal.

Bottomline is that Nadal played as well as he could, Djokovic played nowhere near as well as he can, Nadal had the rest advantage, the lead in the fifth set and YET he could not win. If this is not going to be a hammer blow, I don’t know what will. Djokovic is in Nadal’s head, the same way that Nadal is in Federer’s. Surely, he will win some matches against Djokovic in the future. But it is all one way traffic now. Djokovic has won the last 10 of 12 matches against Nadal(in WTF 10′ he had a contact eye problem and in US open 10, he played the more gruelling SF against Roger, so both matches he could have made it close). Ironically, in 5 setters, Nadal can play to his strengths an bring physicality into the match. I think in three setters he will have a bigger problem.

margot Says:

jane: congratulations on your double whammy :) A bit like Nole, who will beat you ..;)

Skorocel Says:

Ben Pronin: „This was especially evident in the fourth set when Nadal was facing triple break point. It can be said that Djokovic wasted some ample opportunities to win the fourth set, but I don’t consider this one of them. Nadal simply played five unbelievable points, one of which included a backhand down-the-line winner.“

Exactly. When down 0-40, he hit an ace, FH winner & then wrongfooted Djoker with a BH DTL winner on the 3rd breakpoint. That was one of the best fighting displays you could ever see in tennis, too bad it was „only“ enough to win him the set, not the match…


Ben Pronin: „Djokovic looked out of gas for the first half of the set until Nadal blinked serving 4-2 30-15 by missing an easy backhand pass.“

That BH will surely haunt him for ages. Unbelievable, when you think how easily he can pass you from positions which are 10 times harder to pass from than this one…


Ben Pronin: „And while Nadal certainly has to be proud of how he fought, there is still the issue that Djokovic could have won the match sooner.“

Well, he could. For example, in the 4th set tiebreak, he led 5-3 on his serve and hit a FH DTL which Nadal could only barely reach & but which missed the sideline by a whisker…


Ajet: „while all women have to offer is joke of lopsided matches with pathetic one-dimensionall ball-bashing tennis.“

As if the men’s final was all that different…


grendel: „I thought Nadal was very aggressive until that match turning bh miss.“

He indeed was. If you watch the match again, you’ll notice that, in the last, say, 4-5 games, his intensity somewhat dissipated and he once again reverted to passive play. Was it tiredness or perhaps a hope that Djoker would self-destruct?


vox777: „Rafa very aggressive but only 4% shots from him from inside of court, Nole 32%“

That must be a typo, or?


Aravind: „But do not forget at tiebreak Djokovic made a FH UE at 5-3(which missed marginally) and would’ve given him 3 match points.“

Exactly. That was a painful miss from Djoker.

Nims Says:

Aravind: I see you are bringing two contrasting points here. You mentioned Novak is in Nadal’s head, but also claim Nadal played his best. I don’t think a player can play his best when someone in his head. Let’s not conclude Nadal is losing to Novak because of his mental problems. This is definitely not the case here.

Nadal always had problems with 2 handed BH guys who take the ball yearly, specifically on HC’s. I believe you know his H2H record against Davydenko. It’s pretty bad. But Davydenko is like poor man’s Novak. His game is exactly same as Novak but with less power on serve and FH. I remember Nalby had the same advantage against Rafa will Nalby got injured a lot. He also plays similar style to Novak (takes the ball early and a 2 hander)

So Nadal has historically has matchup problems with guys who take the ball early and plays 2 handed BH. I do not see it changing unless Rafa can serve very big and take big cuts at his FH when he receives Novak’s CC BH. If he can successfully hit a DTL FH against Novak’s CC BH, then it will change the dimension of their matchup. But it’s not going to be easy, but possible.

I remember few years back Martina N made a statement that if Roger plays 2 handed BH, he would never lose a tennis match to Rafa. For me Novak is a 2 handed BH version of Roger, except the all court game. But with the conditions like AO, all court game is not a requirement.

Skorocel Says:

Is it just me who thinks Nole’s GF Jelena Ristic resembles a „more beautiful version“ of Justine Henin? ;-) Btw, who was the tanned blackhaired young lady in Nadal’s box? His new GF? Lastly I checked, he was still with that cutie named Xisca, or?

Michael Says:


So Nadal has historically has matchup problems with guys who take the ball early and plays 2 handed BH.

But Nadal has a very decent H2H against Murray, Del Potro, Soderling, Berdych etc. etc. ???? How is that if he is uncomfortable against double handed BHs in general ??

Aravind Says:

Nims, they seem contrasting, but they are both true. Nadal tried a lot of things and served as well as he could and played as well as he could.
His mental demons come out in some cases, like the celebration after the fourth set(hullo, there is another set to play!), and key errors late in the fifth set to give the break(I am not talking about the BH miss at 4-2 30-15, which BTW would have still not won the game), but FH error and a BH slice to give Djokovic the break. Very unusual to see Nadal do this, but this is a recurring theme in their matches going back to Wimbledon last year. Nadal throws kitchen sink at Djokovic, Djokovic stands ground and Nadal chokes when getting close.

In summary, he played a pretty decent game to take it close, but could not close out. If he did not play a decent game, it could have been a straight sets loss(which it almost was!)

Nims Says:

Michael: Murray does not take the ball early. That’s his major drawback. Else he would have had a GS in his bag. As per Murray that’s the only change he has started making in his game from this AO. Let’s see how it works out. Also note, Murray had beaten Nadal in both USO and AO GS.

Soderling and Berdych don’t take the ball early. They are power hitters who depend on huge swing. They cannot take the ball yearly. They may have a 2 handed BH, but they can be moved around the court easily since they don’t take the balls early. But still all these guys have a win against Nadal though not consistently since Nadal gets time to defend against these guys.

We should not get confused that all 2 handed BH take the ball early. That’s not the case. Novak, Davydenko and Nalby were the guys who used to take the ball early, not others.

Suvi Says:

These days in tennis world people usually speaks what Nadal (and Murray) haven’t done well, where have thay mistaken, what was their crucial unf error. It is spoken about pressure that Nadal has and so on.

What is not mentioned, at lest not enough, is pressure that Djokovic is feeling. Pressure of defending titles. And I don’t mean on defending points and first place. Pressure of proving that last year was not coincidence and that he can keep up in same way of play as last year. Without of this pressure both matches wouldn’t last this long.

Last year he was learning how to attack and take titles. This year he needs to learn how to defend and keep titles. He started in a good way. He saw he can so I guess it can just be easier for him next time. Not much, but easier.

Aravind Says:

Nims, in their last 3-4 ,matches, Nadal has happily camped on the BH side, gone inside out to the Murray FH, waited for the short ball to take command. He keeps repeating this strategy, especially in big points. Murray usuall makes an UE.
He does not have the luxury against Djokovic who has a great FH DTL shot(or Del Potro for that matter). Murray simply does not hit the FH DTL consistently. If he makes improvement in this one shot, he is going to be a nightmare for Nadal on hardcourts. Murray is quick and has amazing BH. The pop that he gets on a flat BH is surreal, even better than Novak, except Novak handles the high bounce to BH better.

The worst loss for Murray against Nadal was last year’s US open. Murray never looked to be in the match, courtesy of the same pattern I described earlier. He is making some adjustments this year. His FH in the SF loss was the best I have ever seen Murray play his FH. If he gets over this FH issue, he will start beating Nadal again.

Nims Says:

Araving, Michaes

Just read this article from Bodo on Novak and Rafa’s words. One of the few objective ones from Bodo.

Michael Says:


I agree with your assessment. Might be Murray, Soderling, Berdych etc. learn a lesson or two to take the ball early. But that may not be enough. You need to have return of serve like Novak. It is simply out of the world. That particular one puts tremendous pressure on Nadal’s serve.

Nims Says:

I believe Murray already has a great return of serve. He just needs to step inside the court a bit. He did in parts against Novak, but he needs to learn it by playing more.

Ajet Says:

”Bottomline is that Nadal played as well as he could, Djokovic played nowhere near as well as he can,”


the last match was not the one where nadal played as well as he can, ever! if you talk of only 2010-12, then yes, may be this final was nadal’s best match ever. but I am dead sure that nadal has displayed his ‘BEST EVER’ tennis only at RG 08/Wim 08. That Nadal would have beaten this djoker of AO 12. Rafa was simply inhumanely supreme at RG 08. That indeed was the best that he could play, ever; followed by wim 08; then very closely followed by wim 07(never mind, nadal coulda beaten anyone that day, but unfortunately it was prime federer he ended up facing) and AO 09.

I am pretty sure that the superb nadal of 2008 wimbledon would certainly have beaten the djoker AO 12 version(although am not so sure about that nadal beating djoker 11 version). probably nadal uso 10 version too mighta edged past djoker AO 12 version(but just slightly. I do feel that nadal is just a fractional slower in comparison of nadal 08-09. i have never seen nadal cover the court or playing unbelievable shots better than the nadal of mid 2008(starting from RG 08) to mid 2009(ending with madrid 09 semi).

Ajet Says:

nadal of 08 RG woulda tuffed nadal of 2011 RG for light breakfast!!! ;)

then the nadal of wim 08 would have had djoker AO 12 for a nice lunch! ;)

Ajet Says:

‘i mean woulda stuffed for breakfast’ in my previous post.

Ajet Says:

woulda stuffed for light breakfast of course i meant. ;)

Ajet Says:

nice AO for me coz djoker won singles defeating nadal and paes combined with dear stepanek won men doubles title beating bryan bros! :D

cant complain right now :D

Michael Says:


That killer instinct attitude, Murray has got to imbibe from Novak. He has the game but not the right attitude. In all the three finals of the major which he managed to reach, he was dusted in straight sets. That is a pure disaster for any aspiring player dreaming of winning a major.

Michael Says:


“There are no ifs and buts in life. If they exist in life, then we are living in coincidence”

Aravind Says:

Nadal played really well in 2011. I actually think that he played better in 2011 than in 2010. He made finals more consistently. His 3 slams won in 2010 was slighly misleading. He won two slams against Berdych and Soderling, the kind of opposition that Federer has been severely criticized for beating! Neither was Nadal as great as shown by 2010 or was he as bad as shown by 2011. He just ran into a player that was better than him.

Aravind Says:

Nadal played really well in 2011. I actually think that he played better in 2011 than in 2010. He made finals more consistently. His 3 slams won in 2010 was slighly misleading. He won two slams against Berdych and Soderling, the kind of opposition that Federer has been severely criticized for beating! Neither was Nadal as great as shown by 2010 or was he as bad as shown by 2011. He just ran into a player that was better than him.

Nims Says:

Michael: Let’s not fool ourselves thinking Murray has a game to beat Top 3 consistently with his game. It’s definitely not the problem with the mind, but with his skill.

He needs to have a better serve. Though his 1st serve is very good, but his percentage is poor. His second serve would be eaten for bf even by Roger, who mostly wants to get the ball back on court.

Big problem for Murray is, he can’t hold his serve consistently well. He gets broken too often against top guys. He relies on his ROS to get back into most of the matches. He needs to improve that. That’s where Novak has the edge now. His percentage points won on both 1st serve and 2nd server were on the higher side of 60′s. But Murray’s probably would be around 40-55.

It’s not simply a case of mental block as it’s proclaimed to be. It’s much more than that.

Nims Says:

Aravind: It’s true that Nadal’s level was much higher in 2011 compared to 2010. His level at USO 10 may be his best for past 3 years, but as far as consistency is concerned, he was better in 2011.

Also he ran through a pretty lucky in USO10 and faced Youzny in Semis which is not a tough opponent.

margot Says:

Nims, agree Andy’s second serve and forehand need major work, but certainly with the forehand he is starting to do it. Before the final he had hit more winners than any of the other 4. Fed was second. This says to me he is starting to take the ball much earlier. Of course he is going to make many UEs at the moment, but it is the right direction to be going in.
Hope he ends up with a forehand just like Ivan’s :)

Michael Says:


You are right that Murray needs to improve his first serve percentage if he has to have any chance of succeeding in a major. He served very well against Novak in this semi-final and we know how close the match went and what kind of confidence that will do to Murray’s overall game if his first serve clicks. He has to take a leaf out from Nadal on this. But that is easier said than done. Murray’s first serve percentage is awful in most of the matches. I think technically he has some problems with his service action which he needs to refine. Novak too had such problems before but now he has changed his action. Might be Lendl his new coach can offer him good advise on this as how to consistently serve well.

grendel Says:

Tennislover – well, anyway, one thing we can say for sure, Nadal’s serve is definitely a major force again, if not quite back to US Open 2010. Maybe it’s a work in progress.

Skyrocel:”in the last, say, 4-5 games, his intensity somewhat dissipated and he once again reverted to passive play. Was it tiredness or perhaps a hope that Djoker would self-destruct?”

I put it down the bh miss. w.r.t. this, Aravind says:”key errors late in the fifth set to give the break(I am not talking about the BH miss at 4-2 30-15, which BTW would have still not won the game), but FH error and a BH slice to give Djokovic the break”. But my very strong impression when watching the match was that Nadal was severely deflated following that miss. He had been running on adrenalin to an apparently inevitable victory, and suddenly he has this shocking miss. It seemed absolutely to disturb both his rhythm and his upbeat feeling – and it is clear that he needs the upbeat feeling to play aggressively. And he needs to play aggressively to win. Errors flow as the body tightens up in dismay.

It is strange to see a player coasting to victory, one appalling shot – and the man is a punctured balloon.

Ajet Says:


that’s why i mentioned in either this or some other thread that luck finally paid dividends to nadal in 2010 by giving him 3 easy wins in slams in 2010(and like you, i also think despite wins, that was not even the year when rafa was playing his absolute best) for all the hard work he put in the years before. that slam sweep of 2010, however, was imo nadal’s deserved reward for working so hard for all these years. I would explain below why I think so.

First let me start with the story of fed so that we can draw a comparison as to how each of these two(in fact all champs at some point of time had enjoyed easy ride for a brief time), while at times worked hard, yet lost, whereas at times, they won with working less at times. the law of averages balanced it out for them, i guess, the equillibrium between their hard work and results. the stories of fed and rafa below will illustrate this. In fact, there’s not a time when a champion had not found things difficult, only to oportunitites iopening up to him at soem stage so that he could make up for his toil by acquisition of some valued things, so no surprise it happened with nadal and fed as well.

SO First the story of fed. fed was not the winner of 16 slams at begining. even he had to go through lots of pain and struggle to reach where he is now. in beginning of his career, fed was also trying to improve continuously since he beat pete at wim 01 and win slams for himself. fed’s path too has never been full of roses, he too had lots of his own problems to deal with and there was the challenge for him to overcome those! Fed had many nemeses at even that point(even before nadal had entered the stage) and he just was unable to beat guys like hewitt and nalbandian consistently and couldn’t break through until 2003. then he established himself finally by beating GS champions in 2004, thst was hardly lucky period form fed(that 2003-2004), even roddick hadn’t become so mentally vulnerable to him and thus he used to resist fed then. however, every person for his hard work is rewarded with some prizes and fed got his reward in 2005 when he won 2 slams by beating a doubtfull roddick, a aged agassi and a freaked out and overwelmed baghdatis in 2006. those 3 slams i think were easy pickings fo fed, kinda gift of luck for fed’s consistent hard work. these were the times when fed enjoyed some luck for all his perseverance. no luck except for those 3 slams coz nadal had well established himself by 2006, and a year later even djoker came into his own etc. etc., and yet, it’s a testimony to fed’s greatness that he could stil dominate the field, and didn’t allow nadal even to encroach into his territory of wimbledon. However, it goes without mention that another gift to federer by luck was the FO 09, for tryingb all the years to win FO, although unsuccessfully(fed tried his best and beter than rest, yet rafa denied him FO, it woulda been unjustice if fed had not reaped the fruits even after giving his all at RG, but nature wouldn;t allow much injustuce anyway)! so overall we see federer for his hard work has been rewarded realtively easier wins in the aforsaid slams, as gifts from seemingly benevolent lady luck…

Similar has been also the story of nadal. the guy kept trying very hard for 3 years from 2005-08 to break through and win his 1st non-clay slam, nobody beieved until RG 08 happened that nadal could realy beat fed at wimbledon to make a start in that direction. and imho even competitive match at RG 08 wouldn’t have left federer shaken enough to crumble against rafa at that year’s wimbledon, only a thrashing at RG could have shaken fed the way he was at RG 08 end, and only such a rout of federer in RG 08 coulda given nadal real belief that he could overcome federer finally at wimbledon, and that also happened, LUCKILY, by on one hand nadal peaking, and on the other hand federer declining as well as freaking! ;) thus due to nadal keeping trying harder than ever before all those years finally paid off and nadal by beating fed at wimbledon proved that he CAN win wimbledon. but nadal had lots of hard work done by the time he won his first wimbledon, and after that he yet had to earn his first AO by beating federer(who even after his wimby loss was cnsidered favourite by many at least at the AO), again by working sheerly hard. So, nadal too deserved some kinda reward from lady luck in the form of some easy slam pickings, which he promptly got (thanks to murray, delpo and djoker remaining in shatters during 2010 and fed declining even more) in 2010 and even in 2011 FO by facing his favourite whipping boy federer and not djoker…

actually whatever happened to fed and rafa, they deserve it in a way. thus, let rafa and fed and others enjoy their easy times so that they are happy, after so much of their hard work.

Last but not the least, IMHO lady luck is none other than mother nature’s very own daughterm i.e. the law of averages, in disguise…

grendel Says:

Mochael:”But that is easier said than done. Murray’s first serve percentage is awful in most of the matches. I think technically he has some problems with his service action which he needs to refine”. And of course there is the problem of the 2nd serve. These problems with the serve never seem to go away for Murray, and the really odd thing is – someone like margot can correct me if I am wrong – Murray will sometimes go through an extended period (say, a couple of months) in which the first serve behaves itself. And when it does that, it is of course a magnificent serve.

Given this, you wonder whether the temptation is just to leave well alone, and hope you can produce on the day. Greg Rusesdski believes there is an issue with the way he moves into his serve (don’t ask me what) and that were he to resolve that, he would certainly gain consistency – but at the expense of a bit of speed.

It’s a somewhat macho thing, this speed thing, I wouldn’t be surprised anyway, and maybe Murray is reluctant to lose a bit of the old mph. That would be silly, wouldn’t it? Nadal and Djokovic only just scraped past 200 kmh, and that only occasionally – Murray likes to be able to pull out a 215kmh serve, which he can do. But at what cost?

margot Says:

grendel, yes you’re right about Andy’s serve, though “good for a couple of months.”!! Yikes, never feels like that long. Nerves must have something to do with it because he tightens up, but I’ve seen appalling stats when he’s playing very low ranked players in less important matches. It’s so tight to the net, because hit so flat, if that let rule was abolished he’d get a very high percentage in :(
You’ve put up a good argument for not tampering with it before now and I’ve come to agree. Much better to try and sort out that awful second serve. It’s too much of a liability.

Michael Says:


Serve is not just about speed. It is about placement, spin and direction. Keep the opponent guessing as to where you will place your serve ?For instance Borg was not a big server, but he was a consistent server and it was difficult to read his serve. Everybody cannot be a Karlovic or Isner or Tanner. As you righty said, Murray needs to cut down the pace if he is not able to deliver consistent serves. May be a speed of even 180 kmh will do if it is feeded with the right direction, swerve and movement. It is also important that psychologically you do not fail with your first serve and encourage your opponent often with your second serve. Honestly if Murray doesn’t improve his first serve percentage drastically I do not see him winning a major.

Tennislover Says:

grenndel – one tiny query. I have noticed that you always spell skorocel as skyrocel. I wonder why because it sure can not be a typo every time. I just couldn’t stop myself asking you this. Just curious.

As for Andy’s first serve, I guess he prefers it that way. Otherwise, he’d have definitely made adjustments by now. He is probably happy with the tradeoff between great speed and generally lower percentage. It is one hell of a serve when it is on. However, I don’t know how easy or difficult it is to rectify any technical issues you alluded to. It probably is not that easy to do so. Look at the second serve. Andy has been working and talking about improving it for years now but he hasn’t appeared to have gone anywhere. It is pretty intriguing to see Raf, in comparison, apparently being able to make all sorts of adjustments to his serve as and when he wants to. Probably a person with deep technical insight into service motions etc can explain all this.

Nims Says:

grendel: I don’t think Rafa’s balloon was punctured because of one bad shot. I believe starting 4-4, Novak started returning Nadal’s serve incredibly well. You could easily see the difference his return made even in the 1st two points though he lost. He had been missing Nadal’s 1st serve from the end of 4th set to middle of 5th set (4-4). But at that point, he started returning all his serve back with incredible depth. That had put doubt on Nadal’s mind.

I believe Nole would have still got to deuce from 15-40, even if Nadal has hit the volley into the court.

Just like Roger’s game heavily depends on Serve and FH, Novak’s is based on ROS. When he returns great, it means he is in great form. He got that form back around 4-4 in the 5th set.

Aravind Says:

Ajet, very interesting post about the role of lady luck or law of averages. You can actually see it happening for Djokovic also. For several years, Djokovic was denied slams by Federer and Nadal. Especially US open, in 2007, he had 3 set points on his serve against Roger in the first set and I think was a break up in both the 2nd and 3rd sets. Roger won in straights. In 2008 again a close 4 set loss to Roger in the semis and 2009 a close 3 hour 3 set loss against Roger. So when he won two straight years back to back fighting 2 match points, it was all those years of bad luck finally balancing out. Roger’s had some really dispiriting losses over the last years for all the easy wins he might have had earlier. With a little luck, Roger could actually be at 19 slams instead of 16.

Utlimately long careers are not about luck. Over a career luck evens out even for the best of them. Nadal has had his share of wins in matches where he had no business winning, now the circle comes around and he is losing close ones. Djokovic is doing the exact same thing to him what Roger has experienced in all those years of painful losses to Nadal. What can we say except Karma is a B$#@$#@

Polo Says:

It has been mentioned and suggested here a few times that the women should play 5 sets in a majors finals. I am on the contrary opinion and believe the women should play 1 set matches only instead. They play so horribly and so noisily that it is a struggle for me to watch 3 sets. Increasing that to five is just too much punishment to the spectators.

Ajet Says:


i don’t think luck has started to play its role for djoker just yet, coz so far the djoker has had to earn each and every victory, things haven’t got easy for him so far. it’s the first stage perhaps with djoker, the stage where he just is proving himself through hard-earned wins. lady luck is yet to smile on him for him to be able to pick up some slams easily. I’m scared already thinking about it though. just 2 or 3 more slams for djoker would mean he’d already be at 7-8 slams, not to speak of his gradual decline, during which he too may pick up a further slam or two!!! scary thought, if it so happens! he’s already in top-10 fave list of rod-laver and he may go up even further! i find it hard to believe that djoker has suddenly jumped from 1st slam to 5th slam in a year! he was just nowhere near the horizon just about the same time last year so far as rafa’s slam count is concerned, and now he’s already half the numbe of slams as rafa!!! holy crap!!!

Ajet Says:

however, Aravind,

i do agree with your jan 31 8.12 am post to great extent, including your assertion that lady luck at least has finally started to smile on djoker and may be the balancing act of hers to even out his previous sufferings at the hands of fed and rafa is well and truly underway! although i must make pretty clear that i don’t believe in luck in metaphorical/supernatural/religious sense(being an atheist by true spirit), but only in terms of natural/scientific sense, and as equivalent to the law of averages…

grendel Says:

Nims – what you say may be right, nevertheless I noticed (for this is not theory) that Nadal’s game instantly lost its spark following that one horror shot. If that is so then 1)naturally Djokovic began to play better since he was dealing with easier balls, and this in turn will have further hampered Nadal’s game which will then have had the effect – wait, can there be an end to this spiral? and all stemming from one shot… And then, too, Djokovic himself will naturally have noticed Nadal’s self-immolation, and imagine the boost this will have given him, which in turn….levity aside, as Djokovic himself pointed out in an oncourt interview, tennis is a game of swings of momentum. The evidence suggests (imo) that one took place precisely on that infamous shot. Another thing to consider – Nadal had been running on adrenalin which, almost by definition, has a strictly finite duration……

margot – what pearls of wisdom, then, had I dispensed? Honestly, can’t remember, and feel a certain scepticism….What about this, then: Murray gets rid of both his first serve and his second serve and substitutes for both a threequarter version? This would still have a lot of snap, would be vastly more consistent – and would prove a devilish 2nd serve! The price? Fewer aces and more double faults, but it’s a numbers game, isn’t it, trading off one set of figures against another. The real objection to doing this is, as it were, cultural – it’s just generally not done. How about being bold, giving the finger to convention, and having a crack?

And that, Tennislover, would resolve the tricky technical problems, wouldn’t it? About “Skyrocel” – well spotted. I had no idea I was spelling it wrong. “Skyrocel” somehow sounds more poetic – skylarks and what not – than “skorocel” and maybe that’s why I did it. The mistake was akin, I think, to looking everywhere for your keys, say, when they are actually on the table in front of you. Your eye must have passed over them in the course of your search, but it doesn’t see them. Very weird. Apologies to Skorocel – and it sounds strange to write that!

jane Says:

Not sure that Nole’s break back in the 5th set against Nadal was so shocking after reading the stats from a Wall Street Journal article. Check this out:

“Against Nadal, Djokovic has had to play just one fifth set, in large part because he’s been stronger mentally — particularly late in sets. In their last 17 sets of tennis, going back to their two clay-court meetings last spring, Djokovic has broken Nadal in Nadal’s last service game of the set 14 times. In all of the rest of Nadal’s service games in those sets, he’s held 71% of the time, or just about what you’d expect in a matchup between Nadal’s strong service game and Djokovic’s excellent return game. At crunch time, Nadal has blinked, again and again.”

So it’s been a fairly consistent trend. Nole puts pressure late and comes up with the break. The article also mentions that he’s come up with a lot of wins when seemingly out and more 5 set wins in those circumstances against the other top 3 (Fed, USO X 2, both Murray and Rafa at AO) Here’s the link if anyone wants to read it.

Bodo’s article is interesting because he focuses not on the mental issues, i.e., Nole being “in Rafa’s head”, but on the match up issues. For example,

“. In the final Down Under, Djokovic’s winning percentage on first and second serves were, respectively, 68 and 63 percent, while Nadal’s were 66-45. It was the most telling stat of the day, and it helps explain how Djokovic managed to allow Nadal just six break points while accumulating a whopping 20 of his own ”

Indeed, I think it might be testament to Nadal’s serve (?) that Nole didn’t convert more of those 20 break points because heading into the final I believe he had the highest break point conversion of any player on the men’s side.

jane Says:

margot, thanks. If only I’d've gone to Vegas! :)

Tennis Vagabond Says:

I’d like to hear an analysis of the fifth set tactic of hitting the ball five feet above the net, straight down the middle, landing four feet short of the baseline, twenty times in a row. Thanks.

skeezerweezer Says:


I think at that point they were just trying to keep the ball in play somewhat, it was a long match. I believe someone figured out the mileage these two ran it was something like 2 marathons each. Another cause could be to cut down the angles the other has, but you mentioned it landed 4 feet in ( sarcasm? ) so they for sure should be stepping in on that and creating an offensive shot/angle. But I would defer to the first reason :)

skeezerweezer Says:

I am sure some of you have re-watched the match, although I bet most of you haven’t and if you did you just skipped through it…lol.

Nole does have anticipation for Rafa’s game now, which is a difference also. Some would call its “pattern of play”.. If you look carefully, a lot of times he knows where Rafa is going to hit the ball. As an example, Rafa’s money shot, running around his BH to hit a winner inside out FH, was amazed at Nole’s ability to get that shot back and sometimes with good measure. He is already leaning that way or starting to move over there. Rafa only wrongfooted Nole once in that match that I saw with a BH down the line. In a Fedal, Rafa will set up Fed with the shot to the BH, Fed returns it and Rafa will run around the BH a boom, point over.

El Flaco Says:

Skorocel Says:
Is it just me who thinks Nole’s GF Jelena Ristic resembles a „more beautiful version“ of Justine Henin? ;-) Btw, who was the tanned blackhaired young lady in Nadal’s box? His new GF? Lastly I checked, he was still with that cutie named Xisca, or?

Djoko’s girlfriend looks like Ivo Karlovic’s little sister.

Maybe Xisca was trying to break the jinx because she was at the last few slam finals and he lost. I don’t think Nadal’s sister was there either.

Nims Says:

Grendel: 1)naturally Djokovic began to play better since he was dealing with easier balls

Those Nadal serves were not easier ones. The reason I’m insisting on this is because I watched those last 4 games probably 5-6 times in last 2 days. I could clearly see the difference in Novak’s return game. I believe once Nadal gets a strong return, his baseline game tends to become more defensive, hence Novak got easier balls in the rally to attack. I believe it starts with ROS and not with Nadal’s poor play.

Skorocel Says:

grendel: No problem.

margot Says:

jane: lol but us cautious crabs don’t usually gamble do we? Just seen “Coriolanus” didn’t know the play at all but thought the film superb.
grendel: it’s an idea! BTW didn’t Mr Lendl once serve underarm or something to Johnny Mac because he was standing so far behind the base line? Wish I’d seen that one.
Polo: cruel but funny and for some WTA matches you have a point, but not all. And I feel the same for some ATP matches, usually the serving fests.

jane Says:

margot, no, we hunker in our shells and hope for the best. :) I love all those bloody political tradgedies. My favourite is one of the most critically loathed – Titus Andronicus. Will try to see the film. Ralph Fiennes usually doesn’t let one down – didn’t know it was filmed in Serbia.

I do think it would be interesting to see the lady’s play 5 set finals; it would bring a different element to the game.

jane Says:

oops so many errors – really wish was edit button…

jane Says:

margot interesting stat about Murray and winners; shows he wasn’t playing “passively” at all. Not sure what he’s decided re: DC, but I kind of hopes he opts out. It’s a lot of added pressure on him. He can go for that goal later, hopefully when he has more team support.

Ajet Says:

An article for all tennis fans…

margot Says:

jane: yes, he’s opted out. Cites injuries, mentioned back. No, he wasn’t playing passively, was on baseline, trying to take balls early. Only way to beat Nole and Rafa too. :) Fiennes is fab., looks so evil and battle corrupted. It’s a tale of betrayal on all sides. Footage from Balkan war also used to gr8 effect. Also just seen “Sherlock” a bit like “Sherlock meets James Bond” but I just love Robert Downey jnr so heck, I didn’t mind :)

Boris Says:

For me the fact Joker won 63% of his second serve points is simply astounding. I would love to give him all the credit for that but against top level opposition 50% is considered good on the 2nd which leads me to believe nadal did not execute a proper game plan. He needed to be more aggressive and put the pressure on. Lets be real, joker has a good 2nd serve but far from the best and just like almost any other 2nd serve the returner should at worst be even.

shout out to Ben : tennis info aside, nice writing job.

grendel Says:

Nims – I take your point, but I did notice at the time that immediately after Nadal’s miss, the Spaniard played more passive, even in that very game. I do find it very hard to believe that this passivity was not an automatic response to his own disappointment. I don’t know about the serves in that particular game – unfortunately, I have deleted my recording.

Marie Says:

I agree with this analysis. Both players deserve a standing O. I am a die-hard Rafa fan. Rafa is getting closer to beating Djokovic. He is finding a way to fight back and change/improve his game plan against Novak. Rafa served much better as well as movement but was getting killed on the second serves. If he could just tweek the placement and mph a bit as well to all mentioned above we would really see something. I think Rafa has a great chance at Indian Wells and if Novak drops his play at all Rafa will be ready to pounce! Vamos Rafa.

carlo Says:

Unintentionally deleted my recording too, Grendel. But I pasted and posted all the 5th set stats on another thread. It’s all in the Nadal post match interview thread by accident.

Nadal’s missed BH was a turning point. Imo, it shouldn’t have been such a big deal. Worst case, Nadal could take the set to a tie-break like the 4th set, or fight to break Nole again. He was still serving ahead. Something happened to Rafa’s self-belief after that surrender of serve. Djokovic, also sensing/seeing/hearing the change in Rafa, went in for the kill, a subtle kill – he, himself, was too physically spent for anything like hitting him off court. From 4-2 Rafa leading, the serves went: Rafa broken 4-3, Nole held 4-4, Rafa held 5-4, Nole held 5-5, Rafa broken 5-6, Nole serves, and not without leaving some doubt if he’d make it, for the Championship 5-7. I was getting the idea that Rafa let Djokovic into his head; pretty certain anyone but Djokovic, and Rafa would have been biting the trophy. It wasn’t great 1st serving or aces from Nole, or stunning winner count. There were two 5th set stats lop-sided toward Nole and it was the percent won on 2nd serve and net approaches. Fairly even numbers in that set otherwise, although I couldn’t find total pts. won for the 5th. The Serb played better than Rafa after Rafa missed what should have been an easy backhand wide and gifted Djokovic the break.

Even with an imperfection, the score after the break was 4-3 Rafa. Rafa shouldn’t have lost. Rafa also, imo wasn’t as physically chipper as he appeared. Oddly, some missing grunts and strange sounds in place of grunts were my red flag- for the most part, Rafa’s shots lacked power, as well. I venture guessing Djokovic would have a better explanation if he was telling it candidly and off the record. The ceremony after the match showed Nadal as physically in pain as Nole while waiting, before the chairs came. Rafa’s face, eyes, voice, humor – really very incredible how he was able to sparkle like he did. Truly a charmer. Djokovic showed some great presence of mind too, the way he won. Phenomenole. Fascinating. The Serbian continues to grow on me.

Time to move on for me. There is Tennis in Europe and So. America + other interesting players than the Great ATP top 2.

jane Says:

carlo you said something on another thread that struck me, and that was about Nole’s badly missed smash in the 5th set and how he just carried on as if it didn’t happen. It was one of those “gaspers” of a shot in that it was such a bad miss (not even into the middle of the net, but the bottom of it). But after you wrote that I looked at it in a different light; i.e., not in how bad of a miss it was but in how easily Nole put it behind him. He was pretty good about that throughout the semifinal and final, I thought. In the past bad misses really used to rattle him and throw him off, but he seems to be moving on from that. Maybe it’s just due to confidence or maybe maturity. He still emotes, prays, looks at the sky, claps his racquet, smiles wryly etc, so he’s still his expressive self, but the errors don’t seem to hang on him quite as badly as they used to do.

mat4 Says:

I tried to catch up with the comments.

Ben wrote a good analysis, but there were so many excellent comments that I’d like to see some of them published as blogs.

Could it be arranged by the staff? A post from Grendel, an analysis from Ajet, another one by Skeezer, jane’s take on the final? Nims could write something too.

Some of you are very talented posters, some know tennis quite well. I am so thankful for all your insights.

mat4 Says:


AM is slowly starting to play the way I am afraid he would. But his FH is still vulnerable to changes of pace.

ND tried to feed that FH with neutral balls in the middle, but from the second set, until he started slicing, it usually ended with a AM winner. But it is certainly not a LadyForehand anymore (though I will call the Humble “LadyServe” for a while).

AM is trying to improve, Rafa to change his game, Fed to be more aggressive, Djoko to go to the net… but under duress, they all reverted to their basic game.

grendel Says:

Peter Bodo, as is his wont (he is, after all, a journalist with a living to make),throws out some simple-minded caricature, and then with great gusto proceeds to knock it down – for instance:” We saw last Sunday that there are specific, clear, identifiable reasons for why Djokovic can handle Nadal just fine without having to crawl into Rafa’s earhole.”

Actually, the dividing line between Djokovic and Nadal is rather small. Just as anyone could have won the Djokovic/Murray match, so the final could easily have gone either way. In such a situation, it can be the case – not must be, can be – that some not easily identifiable factor can swing the result. The phrase “Djokovic is in Nadal’s head” is a clumsy one and it is easy to pour ridicule on it – Bodo, who fancies himself as a hard headed satirist, likes doing that – but that is only if you take it too literally.

Of course, the notion that Nadal is hopelessly hamstrung by the very thought and presence of Djokovic is absurd. But does anyone really think that? Mental factors are not just important, they are intrinsic to the game of tennis in particular and sport in general, this is quite obvious when you think about it, and why boxers, for example – boxers! – will solemnly tell you that boxing is a mental sport. That’s a way of talking, of course, the physical side, including strength and skill, is taken for granted.

Sometimes, it is not even obvious (it seems to me) whether the physical or mental is meant – when, for example, a tennis player is spoken of as having a great heart. Personally, I’d be happy to think of it as some kind of mixture. But this business of somebody being in somebody else’s head: imo that is a deliberate exaggeration, for rhetorical effect perhaps, which becomes silly if taken literally. All that is really meant – I submit – is that very occasionally, when for some reason pressure is heavier than normal and resistance (which naturally fluctuates throughout a match, especially a long one)is at a lower ebb than usual, then the repute of a particular player can get to the other player, and influence – very briefly – how he performs. Pressure being what it is, it is quite likely that this will occur at critical moments.

In short, it is quite a subtle matter. Bodo, for his own journalistic reasons, reduces it to a knockabout farce.

Incidentally, some of Bodo’s points are at least questionable. For instance he adduces this statistic as overwhelmingly significant (D 68 and 63% respectively for 1st and 2nd serve, N 66 and 45)and puts it all down to Djokovic. But there’s one thing he doesn’t mention – the quality of Nadal’s second serve, which to my eye often looked poor, even as his 1st serve was the best I’ve seen it for a long time. Also, he says Nadal’s slice was ineffective. But Wilander, for example, thought that for a while, at least, the slice did a good (defensive) job. Namely, it gave Djokovic no pace, and he struggled to generate his own of it – thereby setting Nadal up for an offensice shot.

Wog boy Says:

Something that crossed my mind. Maybe Nole and his team knew that Nadal ( Andy …..) will expect Nole to play same as last year and they decided to change Nole’s game, just a fraction, as an element of suprise. Just thinking, not that I am good at it :)
If you know that somebody will base his tactics on your existing game , just with small change you can unsettle him.
I said in one post that Nole doesn’t have to play his best to win AO , just near to his best and that is what happenefd.

Jane, if you are still there, I noticed you visited video about celebration infront of Restaurant “Novak” in New Belgrade , those two steaming dishes with hot drink were “Serbian tea” drinks, definitely not Lipton English breakfast tea:-)
The way you do it is: take mild plum brandy 27-30 proof,if you don’t have mild then you add 1/3 of water in full strenth one (45 proof) first put some sugar, not to much, in the dish, when it start to caramelize put plum brandy, when it start to boil it is ready to drink and just keep it hot. Use small cups, you will last longer:-)
You can do red wine too, on 0.7l put six tea spoons of sugar, don’t have to caramelize, one stick of cinnamon, few whole black peppers and boil it, ready to use!
They are both good for cold and flue……….after one liter you don’t feel anything :-)

jane Says:

Wog Boy, thanks for this recipe! I will try it sometime. But as for this “I noticed you visited video about celebration infront of Restaurant “Novak” in New Belgrade ” I didn’t see such a video; perhaps it was another “jane”? Can you tell me where this link could be found?

Wog boy Says:

Jane, it is on thread: Tennis players react to Novak Djokovic win over Rafael Nadal

At the end says: Also check out: Celebration in Serbia etc etc …

It is actually last year one, I just noticed, but you can see what I was talking about regardless.
It could be you, Jane from Canada, just last year.
I am waiting for this year one to come on tube.

jane Says:

mat4, “but under duress, they all reverted to their basic game.” Makes perfect sense.

jane Says:

Oh, yes, yes that’s me on last year’s thread Wog Boy. Will look for those “teas” :)

mat4 Says:

@Wog Boy, jane:

I didn’t joke. When I tried the first tea (with plum brandy), I had a car accident.

But Wog, you’ll have to admit Russians are still the number ones. I was shocked the first time I saw Russian ladies drink vodka: they used glass of two decilitres… and they filled them to the top.

Poor Gilbert Bécaud… He must have been drunk when he met Nathalie.

mat4 Says:

@Wog Boy:

Nole didn’t adapt his game that way. He tried to play AM the same way he did last year, but he was a little tense, and the backhand down the line wasn’t working. So he played Andy’s forehand, in the middle. It didn’t work either the way he wanted, until he started to change pace and slice.

It is interesting how players are vulnerable to their own pattern. Murray, who likes to slice and change pace, made a lot of UE when confronted to the same strategy. Rafa is very vulnerable to high bouncing balls on his backhand.

The obvious changes in Nole’s game are in the serve placement, the pace of the second serve (it got back to the speed of 2008), and the predominance of the forehand. He didn’t play at the level he played in Abu Dhabi. In the first two rounds, he went often to the net.

Wog boy Says:


The first one is a Serbian Tea, the other is just boiled red wine. If you don’t have good “Meze” to go with, you are in trouble, don’t do it without food, good salty food, that is a MUST.

As for Russians, I know very well, for the women too, I ended up under the table in one of Black Sea resorts traying to match them up, drink for drink, and they just walked away like they were drinking water.

As for Nole, you are right, I just wanted too make him look better :-)

martini Says:

The only thing that takes away from the glory of this final is
Novak´s annoying tendency to get religious upon winning. Really, he should just leave the court and go straight to church.
I find it offensive.

skeezerweezer Says:

^ I find it inspirational…it says that its not “all about me” and gives credit to a higher source that just him. I want to know what Church he is going to. I’m there. To each there own.

‘Sides….this all sounds like sour grapes talk, again. I am sure there are plenty of posters who don’t like Rafa or Feds rituals, for example. Wait….Fed has a ritual? Uh?

El Flaco Says:

He was religious during the match too Martini. I don’t remember when it was in the match, but he kissed the cross around his neck.

In the final game of the match he said 2 prayers. The 1st was after he saved break point pleading with God to let him win this next point. He then repeated the prayer after winning the deuce point.

They occur at 1:50 and 2:55 in this video

jane Says:

Clearly, his family are religious; he was raised that way (his mum always has her cross and kisses it during matches too); so I guess these sorts of rituals are ingrained. He was given some honour in the Orthodox church his family attend too.

BTW, I have seen Marcos Bagdhatis – oh ye of the quadruple smashed racquets – do similar (i.e, kiss his cross necklace, and/or cross himself). Come to think of it, he also does the heart thumping thing; that’s where I recall seeing it first for some reason.

And wasn’t Michael Chang outwardly devout? Anyhow… not that it really matters.

Michael Says:


Nims – what you say may be right, nevertheless I noticed (for this is not theory) that Nadal’s game instantly lost its spark following that one horror shot.

If he is upset about just one shot then he is not fit to be a player. I do not think that shot was bothering Nadal, it was the severe pressure put by Novak which proved the difference. In the same manner, Novak too made silly UEs in the tie break to lose it. How much it should have upset him ??

The phrase “Djokovic is in Nadal’s head” is a clumsy one and it is easy to pour ridicule on it – Bodo, who fancies himself as a hard headed satirist, likes doing that – but that is only if you take it too literally.

If a player continuously manages to beat you then it will definitely impact your game in future contests howsoever you may deny it. Roger is just one fine example of it and who is heralded as the best but against Nadal he comes out pretty ordinary.

the quality of Nadal’s second serve, which to my eye often looked poor, even as his 1st serve was the best I’ve seen it for a long time.

It appeared poor because of Novak’s excellent returns. Against others it is looking just fantastic.

Michael Says:


Nadal’s missed BH was a turning point. Imo, it shouldn’t have been such a big deal. Worst case, Nadal could take the set to a tie-break like the 4th set, or fight to break Nole again. He was still serving ahead

There is no tie-break in the fifth set.

Michael Says:

The most important thing I like about Nadal is that he is an atheist and what I dislike about Novak is he is a devout theist.

Ajet Says:

wow, i didn’t know nsdal’s an atheist! then, more power to him in the future!!! :D

I will root for nadal in roland garros 2012 then, if he meets djoker there! it’s a promise!!!

Nims Says:


I thought that was one of the better articles by Bodo. Most of the points he raised in the article were true, not just based on post 2011 results even before that. People tend to forget the HC matchup advantage Novak had with Nadal before 2011. If you break down the surface, Novak was having good lead in H2H over Rafa on HC’s even before 2011.

But it’s true that low slice gives Novak lot of trouble. You can see him netting so many low
balls against Roger. I think he netted a point in 4th set tiebreak too. But I think he is going to learn to play it better as more players start using the strategy against him.

For other posters who start believing Rafa is getting closer to Novak by improving his game are missing a point that Novak is also going to improve his game along with Rafa. Now Novak has learnt the tactics of Rafa, which he will counter when he plays him next. Unless Rafa comes up with some substantial change (not possible), I doubt he can beat an above average Nole consistently.

Ofcourse Nole can have a bad day, which Rafa can take advantage.

jane Says:

Michael, “It appeared poor because of Novak’s excellent returns. Against others it is looking just fantastic.”

I wondered about this; do you know this for certain? I almost felt like checking Nadal’s second serve stats in other matches, just out of curiousity. But then I couldn’t be bothered. lol.

Michael Says:


You can check the second serve Stats of Nadal in other matches. Even Roger found it difficult to return Nadal’s serve and even the second serve whereas Novak is just making mincemeat of it. Not always, but quite often. I can say that again and again, it is the quality of Novak’s return which is causing much trouble to Nadal.

Mila Says:

What a champion Novak is! Well done. Congrats to all my ‘teammates’ on Tennis X, a.k.a. Novak’s supporters.

Someone put a funny poll at for Nole’s fans. Could also be entertaining to Andy’s fans as well as all Rafa & Roger fans with a sense of humour. Here it is:

“Posted by Tesla (neka crkne kome smeta – nas je Nole prvak sveta) 01/31/2012 at 08:53 PM
To all Nole’s fans, as well as all others who would like to participate, here is the little poll.

What moment you find the most entertaining:

a) Federer’s press conference after the USO 2011 semi (abot a “lucky” shot, and some players being brought up that way – going for luck and not beleiveing in hard work)

b) Nadal challenging his own serve after Nole’s return winner

c) Wilander on Eurosport after the AO 2012 final saying that Novak was “unprofessional” by dropping the fourth set and letting it go to fifth

d) Nadal dropping to his knees after winning just a set against Nole”

Mila Says:

I’ve forgotten to say that my favorite is the “a”, although “b” is the very close second.

jane Says:

Michael, here is a relevant article (imo) that breaks down further and in detail the Nadal serve/Djokovic return dynamic, and also compares how Federer deals with Nadal’s second serves to how Djoko does it. Lots of stats and some interesting analysis (imo).

carlo Says:

Michael, when I said, “Worst case, Nadal could take it to a tie-break like the 4th set…”

(Like the 4th )is not saying a tie-break was IN the 5th. I was expecting Nadal to fight harder in the 5th and if necessary hold serve and win in a tie break LIKE he did in the 4th set. Geez, I know there was no TB in the 5th! I’ve now watched that 5th set at least 5 times now. lol

Anyway, will interesting to see how Nadal and Djokovic perform at the hc then clay masters events leading up to FO. Nole has a lot of points to defend. Rafa and Nadal trading places in the ranks??

carlo Says:

will interesting. should be will be interesting.

I’m clearly in need of an an edit button.

jane Says:

Yes carlo – Nole has a whopping 4750 points to defend, egads! IW, Miami, Madrid, Rome plus Dubai and Serbia. Rafa has 3900 himself. Right now about 3000 points separate them in the rankings. That’s about as much as I can think “numbers” right now – too tired.

Michael Says:


Nadal indeed fought as much as he could. The mach went to its limit. This cannot go on like the Isner-Mahut match because both are excellent players and have the capacity to break serve at will. Novak was clearly the better player and had also luck on its side.

Yeah the coming season will be very interesting. Novak and Nadal have mountain to defend and I am eagerly waiting for Indian Wells and Miami to start. Remember last time Novak humbled Nadal in both the Masters. Let us see how things unfold this time. But in my opinion Novak badly needs to win the French to retain his No.1 ranking.

grendel Says:


Federer has always struggled with Nadal’s serve. Of course Djokovic’s returns are amazing – doesn’t of itself mean Nadal’s 2nd serves are always good. His normal standards may have dropped a bit – but you may be right.

About the being in one’s head etc. Bodo denied it absolutely, in a rather silly and truculent manner, I was taking a more nuanced position.

“If he is upset about just one shot then he is not fit to be a player. I do not think that shot was bothering Nadal, it was the severe pressure put by Novak which proved the difference”

I think you are being unrealistically harsh. This was towards the end of a long tough match. It wasn’t “just one shot”, in the circumstances, it was a critically important shot, Nadal knew it, and he temporarily dropped his head. That’s normal and human – good grief, do you think Federer doesn’t drop his head from time to time? These guys are human beings caught in a pressure cauldron. A temporary lapse is completely understandable. And b.t.w., there wasn’t any “severe pressure” by Novak. That was the significance of that shot – it signalled a change in momentum. These are strange affairs which cannot be analysed, but they do happen and both players know when they happen. I think Nadal was disconsolate at letting Djokovic back in – for at that point, the match had been Nadal’s for the taking. AFTER that point, yes, severe pressure from a rejuvenated Novack.

grendel Says:

El Flaco says that Djokovic “pleads with God to let him win the next point”. I have this vision of God having dinner with the lads and then an angel, all dressed to the nines, pops in and taps God discreetly on the shoulder. God, who is in the middle of telling what he thinks is a cracking joke, turns round irritably;”yes, what do you want?”
. “Pardon me for interrupting, your Godship – ” “Get on with it man!” “Actually,” says the angel reproachfully,”strictly speaking I’m not a man – but” taking one look at God’s increasingly apoplectic face “I took the liberty of interrupting -”
“what was about to be a damn good joke which you have now entirely ruined!”
“well, after all, God, you are omnipotent, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to – ”
“Now don’t start on that one,” says God angrily, who is aware of certain insurmountable paradoxes concerning the omnipotence thing, and doesn’t like to have attention drawn to it.”Just tell me what it is you want”.
“Well, you see,” says the angel smoothly, “there’s some geezer called Djokovic – ”
“God, not another of those bloody Serbs” says God.
“As I was saying,” the angel continues “and by the way, I do wish, God, that just for once you’d let me complete my sentences!”
“Humf!” says God grumpily, “you can always go to the other place if you’d rather. Let’s see what old Beelzebub will do with your sentences – heh, heh, heh!”
“I shall ignore that childish remark,” the angel continues, “anyway,this Djokovic apparently wants you to let him win the next point.”
“What d’you mean win the next point? What are you talking about, boy?”
“For goodness’ sake, God, you surely must be aware that the US Open final is taking place right now..”
“Oh, that. Huh! I wanted Nalbandian to win. I hurled down a couple of thunder bolts to give that Isner a piece of my mind, and you’d think with someone as tall as that, you could hardly miss, wouldn’t you? Yes,” continued God bitterly, “I found out that I’d set off an earthquake on some piffling little island in the Pacific by mistake. Killed a couple of thousand people. Beyond me. Personally – but keep this to yourself – I think that St.Peter fellow is getting a bit uppity, and in some way I can’t quite fathom, he’s jamming the works. Always been an ambitious chap, I’ll tell you quite frankly I was against letting him in through the so-called pearly gates (about time somebody gave them a bloody clean, actually) –“
“Why did you, then? Let Peter in, I mean” inquired the angel curiously.
“Needed him up here to keep an eye on him, “ grunted God. “Put Peter together with Beelzebub and Satan – all your old mates, eh?” God interrupted himself, giving the angel, who had been best buddies with Satan before the fall, a nasty look.
“I will overlook that remark,” the angel said loftily. “But I see what you mean. Put St.Peter in with those fellows – they’d probably be a bit much for you, eh? Anyway,” he continued hastily, seeing that God was looking less than pleased, “what do we do about Djokovic’s request?”
“Oh, give him the damn point,” said God testily, “really I have other important matters to attend to. I’ve been made top seed for the Heavenly Golf Tournament, and I need to practice. That Pope fellow, what’s he called, John something or other, they use these Latin letters, how is anybody expected to understand them, he thinks he can take me, and I’m damned if I’m going to be beaten by that pious, sanctimonious creep. Oh, yes, he crawls and abases himself and all the rest of it, but I know his bloody game, I –“
“But God,” said the angel who had been listening patiently (as he was used to God’s rants),”Exactly how do we give Djokovic his point?”
“Good grief, how the devil d’you expect me to know that? What do’you think I am, a bloody miracle worker?”

alison hodge Says:

great post by grendel,dissapointment is a natural human emotion suffered by every human been at some point or another in a persons life,nobodys perfect,right michael?

Ajet Says:

hahaha grendel, you made my day!!! what a holymoly revelation:
God practising for heavenly golf tournament!!!
Seriously LOLZ! ;)

carlo Says:

I needed that laugh, grendel…

lol, the part about missing with a lightning bolt and hitting a Pacific Island – St. Peter messing with the system, lool… great post..

Michael. I live in the US. It’s taken me 3 days to turn around my waking and sleeping time. Apologies if my posts have been incoherent. ;)

I’m in a bad mental fog last night when I can’t even keep their names straight- “Rafa and Nadal should read Rafa and Nole”

carlo Says:

jane, I wouldn’t know how these things work, but do you think Novak is giving the rankings point accounting to the Priest to worry about? ;) :D It’s a mountain of points to move. lol, sorry. j/k

Michael, true about the match not going on like Isner-Mahut. Completely different type of players and match. My difference with you is about Novak being “clearly” the better player, even if the total points and a few other areas in the overall match stats might suggest that too. Rafa still had the early lead and a good chance to win in the 5th. I really do think that the famous missed easy backhand must have triggered a cascade of negative thoughts, bad memories v Djoko, fears, and those doubts were lead to his undoing in the 5th set. Djokovic reads and knows Nadal very well. As jane points out, what truly might have caused embarrassment for other players, botching an easy overhead smash while serving for match point, didn’t register a blip on Djokovic’s demeanor, such was his confidence that Nadal was no longer fighting. Wasn’t there another Djokovic blooper serving it out?

And I’m not sure Nole needs to win FO to retain his ranking; he might though. Depends on how it goes with Nadal through the spring. This is going to be fun watching!!

jane Says:

Funny post grendel: I like god better as a disgruntled golfer. :)

carlo, maybe? An accounting priest? I’ve seen stranger things. lol…

carlo Says:

jane, you know, it’s what your told to do in religion, right? “give your burdens to God” or in this case, the rankings points to the priest. :D

Being optimistic here, not really knowing what I’m talking about. It’s a fearsome task for Nole.

Bala Says:

Somehow people tend to forget that Nadal has an uncanny knack of clawing his way up over years if necessary.
Check out WImbledon history at

2006 – Federer defeats Nadal, 4 sets
2007 – Repeat of 2006, but in 5 sets
2008 – Nadal defeats Federer, 5 sets, epic final

One year is in Nadal’s game too short a time frame I think to just write off. I think there is more hope than meets the eye.

tennisfansince76 Says:

@angel i agree. the tennis gods had this one lined up ideally for Rafa. he could not have asked for a better setup yet still could not close the deal

Michael Says:

I think you are being unrealistically harsh. This was towards the end of a long tough match. It wasn’t “just one shot”, in the circumstances, it was a critically important shot, Nadal knew it, and he temporarily dropped his head. That’s normal and human – good grief, do you think Federer doesn’t drop his head from time to time? These guys are human beings caught in a pressure cauldron. A temporary lapse is completely understandable.

What I meant was it was only 30-all even after that mishap when Nadal managed to hit a pass (I do not know whether it was an easy one, but by Nadal’s standards definitely do’able) only to the net. Nadal coult have still fought and won. But it was not possible, because Novak was exerting tremendous pressure on his return of serves which often takes a heavy toll on Nadal. I would say that and underline “superior return of serve” of Novak. That is killing Nadal. You have itself accepted that after that mistake, Nadal was never the same player. But still even when Novak was serving for the match, Nadal had a break point, but he couldn’t convert. Like I said, both had their chances. Novak could have gone on to complete a straight set demolition as he had a set point in the first set and again had three break points in the fourth set and in the tie-break was leading 5-3. But he couldn’t finish it not due to Nadal’s pressure, but only because of his UEs which crept in at crucial times. Similarly Nadal had that opportunity in the 5th set which he couldn’t complete because he had made some crucial UEs at important moments of the match. However, all these combined together made this match very interesting and we were treated with flamboyant Tennis. But I do not think this is the best ever Tennis match, as far me the Borg-Mcenroe 1980 match hogs that glory and the Federer-Nadal match in 2008 comes next.

Michael Says:

The previous post was addressed to Grendel.

Michael Says:

Grendel @9.24 am,

Great post. I like your satire on God and the Angel.

To tell you honestly, what I find irritating about Novak is his praying habit during points, touching the cross, showing a cross sign with his hand etc. He must be foolish to imagine that the so-called God will help him in Tennis match when he has more important things to do. If there is a God (I do not know for certain which one, because there are numerous figments of imagination), he must have known the future and already in the know how that Novak will win. Therefore, it is stupid for Novak to believe that God would help him. But still he was brought up as a devout Christian and has inculcated such spiritual (foolish) belief not based on logic right from his childhood and therefore difficult to change as habits die hard. Nadal on the other hand was brought up by Uncle Tony who is an Atheist to the core and you will never see him pray on the court. I think most of the players do not pray on court and that is welcome.

Michael Says:


Nadal was outplayed in the second and third sets. Both had chances in the first, fourth and fifth sets. With a little bit of luck on his side, Novak could have won it in straight or four sets. Remember he had a set point even in the first set. Nadal was lucky to extend the match, but he became unlucky when he got a fine opportunity in the 5th set and could not cross the finishing line. The stats tell us that there is nearly a 20 point lead for Novak in terms of points won and that tells the story that he has dominated the match to an extent. Nadal came close, but couldn’t pip him to the post. Finally, I think it is their recent H2H record which played a part in this match and that was exhibited in Novak’s confidence ven when he was down.

Yeah, the coming months are going to be interesting and I am eagerly awaiting the French Open where I again hope it will be a Novak-Nadal final. That will be the best chance for Nadal to get the much needed momentum shift.

Michael Says:


True Alison. Nobody is perfect including God !!!!

Michael Says:


Michael. I live in the US. It’s taken me 3 days to turn around my waking and sleeping time. Apologies if my posts have been incoherent

No problem Carlo. It is a pleasure interacting with you. Keep posting.

jamie Says:

Will the good times continue in Djokovic’s career in 2012?

Our astrologers have prepared a chart for Novak Djokovic on the basis of his birth details to analyze the planetary positions and see how will be the year 2012 for Djokovic’s career.

As per Djokovic’s birth details his moon sign is Pisces and he is undergoing major period of Ketu and minor period of Venus. The position of Ketu (which gives wisdom and creativity) in the 10th house (indicating career) from his ascendant is highly favorable for Djokovic. Venus, (which gives enjoyment and pleasure) placed in the 5th house (indicating sports) from his ascendant is also a positive sign for him. This indicates the year will further boost career prospects of Djokovic.

Moreover, the position of Jupiter (indicating money) in the 2nd house (representing monetary and material assets) from Djokovic’s Moon sign till May 2012 will bring him good financial gains.

Steve 27 Says:

Do you believe the Djoker will win calendar year slam? All 4 in a year. I dont think so, the serbian is not “complete” as Federer or dominated two surfaces (clay and grass) like Nadal in 2008 or 2010. I believe if he meets Murray or the swiss in Wimbledon he is gone. And respect the French Open, what is more important 4 in a row as Laver, or 7 french open as nobody else and the second one to has 7 major in a slam like pete in grass. I hope if Nadal meets djokovic in the final he has the ansewrs to crush the serbian, if not Nadal probably will never win another major. we have to wait!

margot Says:

Michael @11.27, Oh the Borg- MCenroe match, that was a classic indeed. How exquisite was Johnny Mac! If UK viewers are lucky, the Beeb sometimes shows it during Wimbledon. However, this is usually because it’s raining, so we are unlucky too…
Am in total agreement with you about bringing God onto the court. Delpotro does it too and I can’t abide it.
They never thank God when they lose either, which surely they should, as, win or lose, they are mere cyphers fulfilling God’s divine purpose

Skorocel Says:

„Novak could have gone on to complete a straight set demolition as he had a set point in the first set and again had three break points in the fourth set and in the tie-break was leading 5-3. But he couldn’t finish it not due to Nadal’s pressure, but only because of his UEs which crept in at crucial times.“

Michael, if you lead 40-0 on your opponent’s serve and he hits 3 consecutive winners to make it 40 all, then I really don’t know what’s „pressure“ in your book…

alison hodge Says:

hi margot just having a look on,and theres plenty of old tennis classic matches for sale on there,including that borg/mcenroe match for 8.99,why not go on there and treat yourself,you have got it forever then.

margot Says:

alison: thanx for that, but I’m really into films, so if I added tennis matches to my collection I would never leave the house…;) Mind you, this Arctic weather…brrrr

alison hodge Says:

margot yeah i know the feeling,roll on summer eh,there if you change your mind though.

daniel Says:

Wow, everybody is eager to chip in comments, which speaks of how accomplished this analysis was. In my opinion, Nadal almost killed Novak in the fifth set. He will figure out how to break him between Indian Well and Rome, and he will rise triumphant again by the French. Let this rivalry be alive and kicking for a long time! I can’t wait to be at Indian Wells!!!

Michael Says:


Michael, if you lead 40-0 on your opponent’s serve and he hits 3 consecutive winners to make it 40 all, then I really don’t know what’s „pressure“ in your book…

Indeed Nadal coped with that pressure of being 0-40 down and he had also some luck in turning that around. His first serves clicked and even he hit an ace in the right moment. Nothing to take away from Nadal, he played splendidly to save that game. It was in the tie break that Nadal recovered not because of his brilliant play but only because of Novak’s UEs when he was leading 5-3. That lapse of concentration in the 4th set by Novak took the match to the 5th set where ofcourse Nadal had the advantage serving 4-2 and the opportunity to go 30-0 on his serve. But as we know that his failure to make that passing shot made it 15-all and then the rest is history. Normally, Nadal is never in the habit of making UEs at crucial points and it was only Novak’s persistent pressure that made him do it. It is only that I wanted to convey ? I am not sure if you understood me well ???

Michael Says:


“Nadal almost killed Novak in the fifth set”

You know the meaning of killing ?? Have you watched the third set of this match ????

Michael Says:


Yeah. Nothing can equal the thrill in that match between Borg and Mcenroe. May be the 2008 final can come close but still it will be at some distance.

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